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A caring foster mom has helped the formerly obese Dachshund get in shape, and now she will now help him find a forever home.
They changed his physique, his life, and the name of his Facebook page.
Back in August when the folks at K-9 Angels Rescue started uploading pictures of an obese Dachshund they’d sprung from a shelter, they had a fitting name for him: Fat Vincent. Tipping the scales at 38.2 pounds, Fat Vincent’s social media moniker was unfortunately pretty accurate. At risk for all kinds of health issues, Fat Vincent was so big he could hardly move. Now, after eight months in foster care, Vincent looks less like a sausage and more like the wiener he should be. That’s why his foster mom, Melissa Anderson, has officially changed his name from Fat Vincent to Skinny Vinnie.
“I’m just so proud of him,” says Anderson. “Just a pound and a half more to go.”
An experienced rescuer who has cared for more than 100 foster dogs over the past eight years, Anderson was shocked when she brought Vincent to her home last summer, his sore belly dragging on the ground. She’d never seen anything like it in all her time as a foster parent. She says how the dog ended up in a shelter weighing roughly twice what he should is a sad story with few details.
“We don’t know a lot, but we know that [Vincent’s former owner] was an elderly gentleman who passed away,” Anderson explains. “He probably was getting little to no exercise, but really the big thing is the food.”
No one knows exactly what Vincent was eating in his old home, but judging by his refined palate and physical state, it’s pretty clear it didn’t come from the pet store.
“He wouldn’t eat dog food at all in the beginning. The first three days I had him, he pretty much was throwing up and had diarrhea. It was just terrible,” Anderson says.
Eventually Vincent decided to give canine cuisine a try, but he still seemed a little obsessed with human food. In fact, he seemed to think car rides might be the key to getting his paws on some.
“When I would go to Starbucks — through their drive-thru — he would just go crazy,” says Anderson. “I was wondering if maybe at some point he was having a lot of fast food. We don’t know for sure, but clearly he has a big appetite. He’s always looking for food.”
Of course food was only one half of Vincent’s problem. His obviously sedentary lifestyle hadn’t done him any favors. While most Dachshunds will do anything for a walk, Vincent would do anything to get out of one. According to Anderson, her roly-poly foster could only make it one one house past her own before he would plop down on the sidewalk and sit, forcing her to pick up and carry all 38 pounds of him. His aversion to exercise wasn’t helped by the weather. He was rescued in August, when temperatures in Houston, Texas, would make even a fit dog pant. With that in mind, Anderson experimented with a cooler exercise regime.
“We ended up putting him in the swimming pool. We started with a doggie life vest, but he quickly figured out that if he would just be still, then all he had to do was float.”
Vincent’s rescuers caught onto his scheme and removed the vest, forcing him into a little doggie paddle. Over the course of a few days, he got the hang of it and actually started burning some calories — and even enjoying himself.
“It didn’t take long before he was going back and forth in the pool. We went from five minutes to 20 minutes pretty quickly. I would let go of him and swim to the other end, and he would swim to me,” Anderson recalls.
When October ushered in cooler weather, Anderson convinced Vincent to give walking another try, and after shedding several pounds in the pool he found it a lot easier. According to his foster mom, Vincent can now walk for an hour at a time and would go for longer than that if she let him.
“He loves to walk. He’s waiting at the door every morning.”
Anderson says she isn’t surprised by Vincent’s progress (according to her it’s a fairly simple equation involving less food, more exercise, and a lot of love). For her, the real surprise is the amount of attention Vincent has received from the media. Thanks to his Facebook fame, he’s been featured on CNN, local TV newscasts, and has even made the news in places as far away as Australia and the Netherlands. Anderson hopes Vincent’s story will encourage potential adopters everywhere to give a less-than-perfect rescue dog a shot.
As for Vinnie, he’s about 1 1/2 pounds away from going up for adoption officially. His foster human estimates it’ll take him about two weeks to lose the remaining weight.
“It’s gonna be really hard for us, for our family,” says Anderson. Although she’s been through this literally hundreds of times before, things are different with the dog now known as Skinny Vinnie. “He’s just really special because we’ve been working on this project together.”
That project has seen Vinnie’s cholesterol levels and BMI go down, and his happiness levels go way up. Anderson says his eyes are clearer, he no longer has chafing under his arms, and the hair on his belly is growing back because it’s no longer constantly dragging on the ground.
“It’s such a great journey to see that transformation. He couldn’t even function. He was basically immobile, and he was also extremely depressed. To go from that to how happy he is today — it just fills your heart.”
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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